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Billiards with Randy

The emails flew after Doc Gonzo's latest and the in-box may fill up with this one too. Aardvark has "a chat" with Randy Lerner (suuuuuure) in the latest fan commentary. Love 'em or hate 'em, we're committed to letting fans express themselves via these pages. You can talk back to Aardvark via the <A HREF="http://citadel2.ezboard.com/fbrownsinsiderfrm34">Fan Commentator forum</A>. <P><I>Opinions expressed may not represent those of Bernie Kosar or the staff of Bernie's Insiders</I>

By the way, we had dinner with the Lerners Sunday.  Yes, the Hampton Lerners.

Randy and Lara— good, good people.  Beautiful home, adorable kids.  Chase will break their hearts and little Max is a pistol!

 

Yes, I know it's hard to believe we were there (not true mind you, and that's what makes it so damn hard to believe), but it was critical to get some face time in early and offer some advice to one of the young lions.  Here's how it transpired:

 

Even the door bell sounds ritzy (honey, stop it—you look fine). 

 

Hiiiiii, how are you?  Yea, the directions were fine.  My, my, nice digs.  I hope Mrs. Lerner has a vase for these flowers—okay, Lara, it is.  Here you go… and you may also want to find a home in your refrigerator for this Caymus.  Really, it was no trouble at all.

 

[two hours of small talk over drinks and dinner]

 

Hey, it's the 21st century, and you'd think we were still in the 19th century after dinner:  women sojourn into the sun room, men file off to the study.  Pat's an artist, so they'll have plenty to talk about with your Lara's art school.  Now let's go--  I'll rack them up and will have whatever you're having. 

 

Okay, Randy, let's get down to business.

 

Everybody loved your father.  And in the little bit anyone's seen of you, you seem like a chip off the old block.  That's great.  The other owners talk about how you address them as "Mister."  A man who truly respects his elders… makes ‘em think Dan Snyder is even more of a jerkoff—if that's possible.

 

But if first impressions count for something, I gotta tell you, Randy, you're starting in a bit of a hole.  So far you've played Howard Hughes and now Hamlet. 

 

I know the transition came about 10 years sooner than you thought, and you probably would have preferred to have the kids grown up and out of the house before taking on this job.  But in fairness, you also had plenty of notice as to how this would play out.  You and your father were too smart to make this look like a sitcoms where the old man dies within ten minutes of the first episode and the son finds he has inherited the divvy bar or the family farm or the funeral home. 

 

So we don't see you for many months.  Not the front office or the players—they've seen you around.  I mean the press and public.  You are nowhere to be seen, and word gets out that lining up an interview with you is like roping JD Salinger or Bobby Fisher (and no wonder, the poor guy is raving and schizoid). 

 

By the way, say what you want about the French, but they sure do know how to make good after-dinner booze.  You're up.

 

Okay, so you decide it's time to talk.  You'll kill a few birds with the owners meeting coming up and get Grossi and Doerschuk and all of them out of the way.  Might as well do it all at once and not appear to play favorites yet. 

 

But, sheesus, Randy.  You sound like you had been in Tierra del Fuego for three years on a migratory bird expedition and just got off a 20-hour flight back.  You sounded like you had no idea what was going on, and the watchword was "uh, whatever."

 

Look, I know your father was not a real hands-on guy.  His comment about "I'm the President of the Cleveland Clinic, but that doesn't mean I perform surgery" was right on the mark.  The problem with this league is that owners do err on the side of being a little too hands on, maybe even grabby.  Some are like Kirby Puckett backstage at the Miss America pageant. 

 

But you can go too far in the other direction, too. 

 

"I don't think of owning the Browns as carrying the torch.  It's enough for me to be an effective custodian."  Judas H. Priest, Randy, what's an effective custodian?  It's a guy who can get rid of that vomit smell when Lonnie Grady barfed during assembly just yesterday.  This is a $600+ million concern.  You aren't the one armed with the floor waxer.

 

Hey, I know it's your pool table, but I am a guest.  Anytime you want to actually miss a shot and let me play… okay?

 

And Randy, what was this business about going from a monarchy to a parliamentary system?  You're the owner.  This is the NFL - aka 19th century Europe.  Victoria is in St. Louis, Napoleon the Third is in New York, Leopold and the Hapsburgs are in the AFC West.  And you want to be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?   

 

You may think you sound like Mr. Smith.  But you sound more like Prince Edward.  You know, Mr. Abdication.  At the very least, you sound like Ronald Reagan.  "Oh, you boys figure out how we can help out our Contra friends.  Nancy and I are headed out to the ranch."  Coming off as laissez-faire is one thing.  Out of touch is quite another.

 

The Hamlet reference?  Well, of course I'm not saying that Carmen is Claudius and knocked off your old man.  But I would tell you that if you're ever in Berea, get yourself a food taster.

 

Wow, a Cuban cigar?  Impressive.  No thanks, I don't smoke.  It would be wasted on me. 

 

Seriously, it's good to have experienced people in place, especially when you face a learning curve.   But a five-year deal for Carmen?!  Holy mackerel, Randy, your father could have learned to be a surgeon at Cleveland Clinic in that time. 

You can't just rubber stamp everything. 

 

Yes, they're very experienced, but they're also not infallible.  Carmen leaked those stories about him fronting a possible Los Angeles franchise, and you took the bait.  Davis has made mistakes—he's even owned up to a few.  But it's not confession.  Admitting them doesn't just absolve you and leave a clean slate.  He still treats the offensive line like it can be staffed by Hour Man.  Paul Brown didn't feel that way.  He's an employee, and that's part of what makes up his job evaluation.

 

You're a huge football fan and have something of a clue.  If you don't, you'll have to get one soon.  You can't be playing Larry Olivier on the battlements and constantly question yourself:  should I say something?  Should I leave it alone?   You can't forever doubt yourself. You can't play Ronald Reagan, make some vague pronouncements and let everybody else divine its meaning while you clear brush at the ranch. 

 

Randy, when you had those contractors put on that three car garage last year… if they had started adding on seven gables and a widow's walk, you wouldn't have said to yourself  "Gee, they must know what they're doing…" 

 

Yes, Butch Davis goes off and releases all the starting linebackers from last year.  That's enough to make anyone ask just what in Sam Hill is going on.  And if a reporter asks you what you think of the move, it's best just to keep mum.  But not you!  Nooo, you go on with something about  "yea, that sure struck me.  But I'm sure excited about those guys we drafted last year!"  Please, Randy, that wasn't being diplomatic.  That wasn't the safe, politically correct thing to say by not undercutting Butch.

 

That was just being an A-1 Gomer. 

 

Okay, okay, put the cue down.  This is not Altamont and I am not a naked fat guy. 

 

Perhaps their moves make sense, but if Butch or Carmen make what appears to be a questionable decision in your mind, considering the complete lack of experience we have as backups, then take it up with them and keep your mouth shut with the press.  But don't give us that "well, they know best" stuff because at some point that will sound ridiculous if it doesn't already sound that way now.

 

Yes, I understand you still have a lot to learn about this business, but right now you're the Yuppie mark who's being told by the Mercedes mechanic that having his oil changed was fortuitous because we found a thrown rod in the franistan, blah, blah, blah, and it's gonna run you $1400. 

 

"Uh, yea, well, uh, fix it.  Uh, you know, do whatever it takes."

 

And the press will see all this.  They may even make a game out of it to see just how far they can take it.

 

"Mr. Lerner, what do you think of the proposal being kicked around to surrender our first round pick for Dallas' first rounder in 2006?"

 

"That's up to Coach Davis and Mr. Policy...."

 

"Mr. Lerner, Butch has hinted that we trade our second round pick to Jacksonville so that we can get Wali Rainer back…."

 

"If they think this is prudent…"

 

"Mr. Lerner, earlier today Mr. Policy said he was entertaining the idea of playing two home games next year at the Rubber Bowl as a way of helping Tim Couch get over his currently sticky relationship with CBS fans. Your reaction?"

 

"I'm absolutely reliant on Mr. Policy…"

 

"Mr. Lerner, Coach Davis would like the Browns to wear a special uniform at one home game next year as sort of a trial balloon.  There would be orange jerseys and orange jock straps to be worn on the outside of white pants.  Mr. Policy says this could position us as ‘GayAmerica's Team.'"

 

No, I swear!  Yes, I've only had one snifter.  Really!

 

Okay, I'm rattling your cage.  But it comes down to this:  at some point, you, Randy Lerner, have to actually play the role of owner.  I realize that may not be today, or this month, or even this year.  But at some point, you have to do something more than just wear the crown.  You just can't surrender the keys to the castle and jet back to Long Island.  I realize your family's roots are there, and family is priority one.  A few Browns fans will be cheesed that you didn't pick up the family and move them to Ohio City so that you could be close to the stadium and live like average Clevelanders.  But screw them.  Just make sure you jet in for the home games.

 

Oh-- hi, ladies, too cold out on the deck?  Okay, we'll be done here in a minute. 

Randy's closing me out on this best out of three.

 

Look, everybody loved your father because he was so instrumental in bringing our Browns back.  He, too, was perhaps a little too disengaged from the process.  He wasn't quite the monarch you make him out to be.  Yes, he was more of a parliamentarian like you. And he did manage to hire some people who would take any and all negative flak, and it was a good setup for a few years.

 

But if you're in this for the long haul, and since you're a good guy with Cleveland roots, we all hope to see little Max running things in 2040, you have to realize something. 

 

A good owner is to a good general manager what the President is to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  The President leaves it to the military on how to fight a war.  But it isn't the military that conducts foreign policy.  Douglas MacArthur was a brilliant general in his day, but he went way over the line— the 38th parallel to be exact--  and brought China down on our heads. 

 

It's the President who sets the course.  You're the last word.  Have one.

 

Okay, okay, sorry ladies.  Looks like Max is half in the bag now.  Thank you, Lara, for your wonderful hospitality.  Randy, thanks for allowing me to bend your ear and show me how long it's been since I've played billiards.

 

Good luck with everything (now don't forget our little talk).  Good night all!

 

 

Copyright 2003.  Questions?  Comments?  Post in the Fan Commentary forum, or write Aardvark at AakronAardvark@aol.com.

 

BerniesInsiders allows fans selected each year during our Summer "Commentate-Off" to comment on Browns football throughout the year. Opinions expressed in these commentaries may not necessarily be those of Bernie Kosar or the staff of BerniesInsiders.com.

 


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